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Our View: Cities must keep communicating about landfill

Our View: Cities must keep communicating about landfill

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It appears the Twin City may take its sibling squabble about Bristol, Virginia’s stinky landfill into the murky realm of litigation, so it’s important for the two sides to continue communicating with the people negatively affected by the stench.

It’s good to see Bristol, Virginia leaders have quickly come to realize that just because they will likely get sued over the landfill by Bristol, Tennessee, their responsibility still lies with the citizens they serve.

After saying they would have no comment on the issue last week following the announcement that Bristol, Tennessee had retained legal counsel, City Manager Randy Eads made it clear in a meeting with the Bristol Herald Courier on Thursday that the city has reversed its initial decision to clam up on public comment and dialogue concerning landfill issues, following the threat of possible litigation.

He said the initial reaction of no further public comment about the landfill was a natural reaction any individual or business would take when faced with legal action. But after discussing the situation with legal counsel, they determined not discussing what the city was doing to remedy the situation would not serve the city or the public well.

“After discussion with outside council late last night, we both recognize that keeping the public apprised of the situation and what we are doing and how we are doing it is most important,” Eads said.

That’s absolutely correct. The big losers in the silent treatment from the city would only be those with a vested interest in how the efforts to fix the issues are progressing and what can be expected in the coming days and weeks.

City leaders on the Tennessee side of the border need to keep talking as well. It was disappointing to see Bristol Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah decline to comment for a story about the landfill due to pending litigation.

Eads correctly pointed out that many of the documents about the landfill are public information and can be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request. Also, with months of very open public comment about the issue, it is unlikely a gag order on the subject would have any relevance other than to further frustrate those affected by the stench.

What we are seeing is the beginning of a legal fight that could go on for years, and will likely only benefit the legal industry. This is a sideshow. It will not move Bristol forward.

Have we not learned in our more than 165 years that our two cities are locked arm in arm? When one stumbles, it pulls the other down as well.

The real work on this issue is happening in the landfill. It was encouraging to read Staff Writer David McGee’s story of Rustburg, Virginia’s landfill last week. Rustburg installed the same system Bristol, Virginia is putting together and it worked, reducing smell complaints by 95%.

We need to hear frequent updates from the city of Bristol, Virginia about how that work is going. That’s where the hope is. That’s where the problem is being solved. Only then can we move forward together.

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